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Charity calls for tax break to help end fuel poverty

Monday 28 May 2018

Age Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to reduce council tax for homeowners who carry out energy efficiency measures to tackle fuel poverty.

According to the charity, more than half of single pensioner households and four in 10 pensioner couples currently live in fuel poverty - with rural households most likely to be affected. They are now calling on the Scottish Government to set more ambitious targets for the eradication of fuel poverty, a measure they say is necessary to help the soaring numbers of pensioners who have difficulty heating their homes. 

Last year there was a significant increase in excess winter deaths among those aged 85 and older, with 1,430 additional deaths recorded by the National Records of Scotland, compared to 2016/17.

Research conducted by Age Scotland as part of their nationwide Housing Survey shows that one in ten people aged 55 and older have struggled to pay their fuel bills, rising to 27 per cent among those with a long-term health condition. The data found that people with health conditions and disabilities were most likely to struggle to pay their fuel bills and in many cases, older people will cut their spending on food and other essential items just to keep their homes at or in some cases below the recommended temperature.

In March last year, NAEA Propertymark responded to the Communities and Local Government Committee's inquiry on Housing for older people, which looked to address the adequacy of provisions of homes for older people and the challenges people face in accessing housing which meets their needs.

With homeownership among the elderly forecast to fall to 55 per cent by 2025, we believe that there is scope for a targeted nationwide policy to support housing provision specifically for older people. We have previously asked NAEA Propertymark members about enquiries they have received from over 55 year olds and as part of a survey we found older people often struggle to pay their fuel bills, with many citing heating costs as a reason for having to downsize their homes. 

Whilst Age Scotland supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to eradicate fuel poverty in a new Warm Homes Bill, it believes there needs to be substantial dedicated funding for energy efficiency measures and clearer advice and signposts to assistance, so that older people know what is available and how to claim.

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive, said: “Too many older Scots are spending their later years worrying about how to pay sky-high fuel bills. Many are putting their own health at risk because they can’t afford to heat their homes adequately. We need to see more support for owner occupiers to improve the efficiency of their homes. A council tax break would help those who are cash poor and make a real difference to the lives of thousands of vulnerable older people.

“While there has been a lot of progress in recent years to improve energy efficiency of homes, the current target to reduce fuel poverty to less than 10 per cent by 2040 does not go far enough. We would like to see more ambitious targets, with the Scottish Government, energy companies and charities working together to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland.”